Alliant Energy faces pushback from Dyersville in office closure - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Alliant Energy facing pushback from Dyersville over office closure

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DYERSVILLE (KWWL) -

Alliant Energy is facing pushback from the community of Dyersville after announcing in late July it's moving its operations there to Dubuque.

Although Alliant Energy has just four employees working out of Dyersville, city leaders say moving them to Dubuque could lengthen response times in case of an emergency - and not just to Dyersville, but to surrounding small communities such as Colesburg and New Vienna. Leaders cited power-cutting disasters such as ice storms, fires and severe thunderstorms.

In Dyersville, Alliant Energy has an office on First Avenue West, but Alliant plans to close it in early September and move the four positions over to Dubuque.

"The decision was made that we could better allocate resources maybe a bit more efficiently and more effectively by having everything located over here at our Dubuque operating center," Alliant spokesperson Ryan Stensland said Tuesday in Dubuque.

The move will also save Alliant between $20,000 and $30,000 per year, he said.

In a City Hall conference room Tuesday afternoon, Dyersville mayor Jim Heavens said it's a move that leaves a lot of questions and uncertainty.

"When you hear, like on the East Coast, where these people have been out of power for five days and it's been restored, rural areas will be restored later. Well, now we're going to be kind of one of those rural areas that will be restored later," he said. "I think that you've got to let the citizens have some comment on this."

He also said having the Dyersville Alliant office has been a selling point for attracting new businesses to the area.

"If we don't have the assets out here and the people out here that are in the area to fix that, if it was down for some reason, and to upgrade it, we'll lose a tool we've got for industrial recruitment," Heavens said.

"The service time's still going to be approximately the same - service restoration time," Stensland said. "We have a facility in Manchester, we have a facility here in Dubuque, and so Dyersville actually sits in a pretty good position - and those other communities - because they sit really right in the middle of those two areas."

Alliant and the city of Dyersville negotiated its 25-year franchise agreement back in 2008, allowing Alliant use of city streets for its infrastructure. Heavens claims that, at that time, Alliant had already been considering closing the Dyersville office but didn't disclose that during the negotiations.

"We've granted these folks a 25-year monopoly to supply power to at least part of Dyersville," he said. "That was never mentioned when we negotiated that agreement."

Heavens calls it bad faith bargaining and said the city plans on filing a formal complaint this week with the Iowa Utilities Board.

"We don't agree with that claim at all," Stensland responded. "I think when we sat down at the table with them to negotiate a franchise agreement, we said that we'd provide safe and reliable service to customers in Dyersville...At that time, I don't think we were sitting there, plotting to say, 'Okay, we'll get this signed and then we'll just leave town.'"

Dyersville city administrator Mick Michel said the agreement allows the parties to re-examine the terms 10 years in. He said the non-disclosure of Alliant's consideration of closing its Dyersville office may be grounds for examining the terms earlier. Had the city known about Alliant's possible plans, Michel said, city leaders would have sought additional clauses in the agreement, such as one guaranteeing same service times if Alliant closes its office.

Stensland said, in Alliant's eyes, the move represents more a matter of storage and efficiency than any change in service.

"This boils down to, 'Where are we storing our trucks on a nightly basis?' We have not had a fully-functioning operation center there for years," Stensland said, of Dyersville.

Heavens said he wants Alliant to delay its early-September consolidation date by 90 days. He said that would allow the city to provide Alliant with more information and allow them to hopefully find a solution that works for both parties.

Stensland said Alliant is working to schedule a meeting between Dyersville city leaders and the company's chairperson, president and CEO Patricia Kampling.

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